Hospitals' prices keep going up

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Hospitals are very expensive and they keep getting more expensive, very quickly.

Driving the news: Hospital fees are rising much faster than doctors' fees, and hospitals are driving almost all of the price increases for certain common procedures, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

Details: The study focused on 4 common procedures, using insurers' claims data to track the real prices patients and insurers paid for those services between 2007 and 2014.

By the numbers: For inpatient care, hospitals' prices rose 42% over that period, compared to 18% for doctors. Hospitals’ fees for outpatient care went up 25%, compared to 6% for doctors.

  • About 80% of the total cost goes to the hospital, whether you're in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
  • As care has gotten more expensive, hospitals have driven the increase. The total cost of a vaginal delivery, for example, went up by roughly 30% over this 7-year period — and hospitals' fees accounted for almost 90% of that increase.

Prices are also highly variable, even within the same city.

  • Now that the federal government is forcing hospitals to post their prices online, Kaiser Health News dug into the data to see what hospitals are charging for the same services.
  • For example: What’s the price for a liter of IV fluid? At one Los Angeles hospital, it's $146. At another L.A. hospital just a few miles away, it's $383. At New York Presbyterian, it's $473.
  • These are hospitals' sticker prices, not the prices you and your insurance plan would actually pay.

The bottom line: For patients, figuring out what a hospital visit will cost is all but impossible. For economists looking at the system as a whole, the cost of hospital care is a little clearer: It's high, and climbing fast.

Go deeper: Think drug costs are bad? Try hospital prices

What's next

University of Minnesota student jailed in China over tweets

Xi Jinping. Photo: Noel Celis - Pool/ Getty Images

A University of Minnesota student has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States, according to a Chinese court document viewed by Axios. Some of the tweets contained images deemed to be unflattering portrayals of a "national leader."

Why it matters: The case represents a dramatic escalation of the Chinese government's attempts to shut down free speech abroad, and a global expansion of a Chinese police campaign a year ago to track down Twitter users in China who posted content critical of the Chinese government.

Go deeperArrow5 mins ago - World

⚖️ Live updates: Opening arguments begin in Trump impeachment trial

The second day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump will see a full day of opening arguments from Democratic House impeachment managers.

What to watch for: Democrats now have 24 hours — spread out over three days — to take their time to lay out their case against the president's alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It'll also allow them to highlight gaps that could be filled out by additional witnesses and documents from the administration.

This post will be updated with new developments as the trial continues.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020 - Politics

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.